End of Apartheid
Editor: How the world changes. The United Democratic Front (UDF), which led the decade-long fight to end apartheid in South Africa, has closed its doors for good.
The UDF understands that President F.W. de Klerk has made good on his word to realize the stated goals of the UDF: The release of anti-apartheid leaders, the lifting of bans on dissident groups and the return of political exiles.
With these tasks accomplished, they felt there was no longer a reason to continue operations. This is but the most recent evidence that the era of apartheid is over.
If the UDF, perhaps the most prominent organization involved in the fight to end apartheid, finds that the situation has improved drastically enough to cease operations, it is only appropriate that the United States follow that lead.
We should be embracing the reforms of South Africa and working for their continued success by becoming involved in the process.
ohn B. Wetzel.
Editor: A response to the Feb. 27 comments of G. Raymond Valle on "Hypocrisy in Suburbia." I can't shed any tears for a teacher who works an eight- or nine-hour day for nine and a half months a year for a starting annual salary of $26,000 (Baltimore County). Those hours total far less in a 12-month period than hours worked in any other full time job or career. The teachers' benefits are also excellent.
A teacher's education costs are the same as those for any four-year college degree. Continuing education is necessary in most career fields.
As to the poor teachers whose "pay is so inadequate that they are forced to work other jobs during the summer months," those weeks to work the second job are a luxury many others would love to have. Second jobs for most people are hours worked in addition to an eight-hour day, five days a week, 12 months a year.
The education budget is about half of the county's total budget. Every increase seems to go to teacher salaries. Teachers moan, groan and "go public" because they have to buy some supplies out of their pockets; don't we all when we want an item not supplied as standard equipment by our employers?
Private school systems do a superior job of educating students while paying their teachers lower salaries than public school systems, proving higher salaries do not mean better teachers doing a better job of educating our young people.
Education is the future of this country. Increasing teachers salaries is not the solution to the problems in the public schools.
B. L. Emery.
Editor: This writer would like to recommend that the "Marylander of the Year" for 1991 be Ed Eckenrode (news story, "Giving platelets is special for donor after 100 times," March 8).
This fine man has donated his platelets over 100 times.
His dedication to this outstanding cause deserves the highest recognition of this community.
In my mind Mr. Eckenrode represents the finest in human behavior.
Edgar P. Silver.
Baltimore. Editor: All human beings make errors. Surgeons call theirs cadavers, attorneys call theirs inmates and diplomats call theirs wars.
In journalism, your errors are spread out for all to see. Since criticism comes easier than craftsmanship . . . your editorial staff will continue to receive some brickbats.
Editor: The Maryland Democratic Party and its chairman Nathan Landow deserve credit for addressing the important issue of the timing of Maryland's presidential primary.
Maryland's "Super Tuesday" experiment in 1988 was a complete failure. The average time spent campaigning in Maryland by a presidential candidate was a day and a half.
The reason was that they had to be in 19 other states in the same two week period, including such large states as North Carolina, Florida and Texas.
In order for Maryland's voters to have the maximum impact on the presidential nominating process, the Maryland Democratic Party has requested the General Assembly to pass legislation this session to hold the 1991 primary on the first Tuesday in March when no other presidential primaries are scheduled.
Maryland's primary would come after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Hence, Maryland can become a major player in the presidential nominating process. By voting in March instead of May Maryland will neither ratify a choice already made nor cast an ineffective protest vote. Maryland deserves to be an important presidential battleground state.
Obstacles to Arab Democracy
Editor: Now that the Persian Gulf war has ended, Americans would love to see Arab states democratize.
Kuwait, which benefited the most from our military largess, has promised democratic reforms. But the type of democracy we have in mind may not be viable in the Arab states or be compatible with the tenets of Islam.
Islam was meant to be a layman's faith. Its basic beliefs are few and simple. Its brief creed, "shahada," states that there is "no god but God" and that "Muhammad is the messenger of God." The shahada is followed by "salat" -- ritual prayer.
There is no Muslim celebration devoid of prayer and its formalism. Correct behavior includes regular performance of the prayer ritual. There are five prescribed prayers of unequal length. Ablutions precede the prayers and there are rigid rules for body postures to be assumed during prayer time.
Personal invocations to God are permitted only after predetermined ritual obligations have been met. Even the Islamic "khutba," or sermon, is not a stimulating religious discussion left to the whim of the worshiper or the "imam." Its content is fixed -- praise of God, blessing of the Prophet, prayer for the Muslim community, a recitation from the Koran and a call for piety.
Two other cornerstones of Islam are "saum," fasting during Ramadan, and "hajj," the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Unquestioning surrender to the majestic Allah is a measure of one's faith and the pilgrimage to Mecca brings prestige to the pilgrim. Among the Muslims, the Shiites have veered somewhat from the original teachings of Muhammad. The Shiites invested Islam with the belief that God can be manifested in man, and that the bearer of divine light is the "imam" of the community -- its spiritual and political leader. Husain, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, is the center of the Shiite faith. Although Shiism added its own dimensions to Islam, the dogmas remain, emotions are intense and passion is closer to the surface than in the Sunni Muslim sect.
The question here is, "Are Islam and democracy irreconcilable?"
Islam itself doesn't give much scope for dissent. But dissent and debate are the wellspring of democracy. The most vibrant democracies are those in which state and church are kept separate, almost impossible to achieve in Muslim nations.
The force that drives politics, culture and law in Muslim countries is Islam. To change that may cause terrible social upheavals.
Unacceptable to enlightened democracies is Muslim law, which in many instances is harsh, swift and brutal. Reforming the Islamic legal system, making it more merciful and modernizing it could be interpreted as challenging the very tenets of Islam, a heretic concept to most Muslims.
The fate of Salman Rushdie crystallizes the crossroads at which Muslim nations stand. To make peace they must compromise, forgive and be sympathetic to faiths and ideas other than their own.
To democratize, they must give up dogmas, separate religion from state, grant all citizens equal rights, revamp their legal system and allow dissent. In short, they must move from the prescribed solace of Islamic edicts into a turbulent unknown.
As Americans, we cannot be sure that this is either appropriate or achievable for the Arabs.